The presence of ticks in residential areas in Indiana is on the rise, according to research led by an assistant professor at Indiana University’s School of Public Health.
Karo Omodior, who is leading the multi-year investigation, explained that of more than 300 properties sampled in south and central Indiana, 40% contained at least one tick, while about 20% showed signs of established tick populations.
“If you go hiking, most people are informed about the precautions against ticks to take,” Omodior said. “In the yard, the most comfortable place, a lot of people don’t think about the precautions.”
Omodior’s research has found a total of four different tick species located in south and central Indiana. The deer tick, dog tick and Lone Star tick were found within the first year of the study. By the second year, a fourth tick, the Shemophyselias, was found.
“What this tells us is that the first three ticks are known to be present in different parts of Indiana. The fourth one says that new ticks are coming and the potential for new tick-borne diseases comes aboard,” Omodior explained.
The importance of this study to Hoosiers is knowing that tick populations are being established in residential areas.
“For property to have an established tick population, you must see at least six different ticks on the property or two different life stages of ticks,” Karo added.
If ticks find a yard to be a good place to stay or reproduce and if people spend time in the yard, they are more likely to get ticks.
Removal of fallen leaves and deterring deer are ways to decrease ticks in residential areas.
“Remove leaf litter from the yard because fallen leaves create a moist environment on the floor of the yard,” Omodior said “Small rodents will be there, and they harbor ticks.”
Bryan Price, senior vector-borne epidemiologist for the Indiana State Department of Health, also shared some tips on tick protection.
“The best methods of protection include the use of an EPA-approved repellent when in tick habitats, wearing long sleeves and pants if possible and checking yourself and family members for ticks before going back inside,” he said.
Price said staying in the center of trails and avoiding tall grass and shrubs also can reduce the chance of encountering ticks.
“When you leave an area suspected of having ticks, be sure to check yourself and family members for ticks when returning inside,” he said. “Taking a shower and placing your clothes in a dryer for 30 minutes upon return can help as well.”
Tick numbers vary widely from area to area, and numbers regarding tick-borne diseases are currently close to last year’s numbers, Price said.
“We know that there will always be ticks out there, so precautions should be taken any time you are in areas that might harbor ticks,” he said. “These especially include areas with tall grass and shrubs and forested areas.”
In 2019, more than 300 tick-borne disease cases were reported to the Indiana State Department of Health. The most common disease was Lyme disease, followed by ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.